My People are Hashem and his Family from Bil`in.
2 April 2007
Hebrew original: http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/spages/845020.html
Translated by Rann Bar-On
There is nothing festive in this posting. Passover, shmassover, I hate the holidays because while we celebrate, while us Jews babble slogans about freedom, and fantasize that we are a miserable enslaved nation, we are in fact busy enslaving the Palestinian people. It`s become banal and boring to repeat this a thousand times, but in my eyes, the hypocrisy cries out to the heavens. [The Passover prayer] `Oh bread of poverty` is no longer the bread of poverty of Jews but of numerous Palestinian families in the Occupied Territories, who live off thirty or forty shekels the head of the household manages to scrounge together doing temporary jobs once every few days.
I got to know one such family this past Friday. I joined my daughter, Talila, at a demonstration against the Wall in Bil`in. The protocol involves gathering at Tel-Aviv`s Northern railway station and from there somehow organizing ourselves into Arab minibuses and private cars, and driving to those Palestinian villages whose income has been affected by the Wall. That is, the Wall separates between the villagers and their fields. My daughter is well-accustomed to these demonstrations. For me, this was the fist time. This is how I met Dr. Ilan Shalif, the living spirit of the the demonstrations and organizer of rides.
Shalif is a psychologist and an anarchist, who surely has better things to do with his time than to busy himself organizing taxis. This is what it means to be an idealist: to do things for altruistic reasons. He comes equipped with special large glasses to protect against the sting of tear gas the border police will throw at him. What encouraged me was that not all the demonstrators were youngsters, some were more-or-less my age, like Yisrael and Dvorah (Dvorah Ferdel-Zilberstein) who in the end volunteered to drive us in her red Vauxhall to Bil`in.
We agree on a cover story in case we get stopped at the checkpoint after the turnoff from Road 443. We were to say that we were on our way to a circumcision ceremony at one of the settlements. But as it turned out no one stopped us at the checkpoint, nor did they stop the cars behind us. And so we climbed hills and descended into valleys between quiet and beautiful villages, between olive groves and fields of flowers, until we arrived at Bil`in.
In the interest of calm and sanity, it is best not to look at the new settlements that are popping up on the way to Bil`in. All sort of ugly piles of cement that destroys the beautiful vistas of this land in the name of some fake `love of Israel`. When I stare at this colossal ugliness, designed to house all sort of orthodox parasites from abroad whose only job is to hate the non-Jew, I understand that what is called the `Jewish nation` is not my nation at all, and that I feel far more sympathetic and empathetic towards Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories like the family from
Bil`in who accommodated myself and my daughter after I was (lightly) injured during the demonstration by an exploding stun grenade.
The father of the family is called Hashem. His wife is named Zahara. They have two married daughters living nearby, and they have lovely little children. I felt at home immediately. Hashem brought me herbs from the garden, which were supposed to help alleviate the effects of the gas thrown at me by the soldiers. Zahara hurried to bring us a tray filled with fresh vegetables, pita bread, olive oil and za`atar. Their house was small, pleasant and brightly lit. Hashem works occasionally as a gardener
in the houses of rich people in Ramallah. Luckily, his brother owns the only supermarket in the village and sells him good on credit. This is how they manage to survive.
As I was walking with the demonstrators - some villagers, some from Ramallah, and some Israeli and international activists - towards the gate in the Wall that is protected by armed border policemen, my daughter told me that one border police unit occupied Hashem`s roof and fired at the house next door, where stones were supposedly thrown from. My daughter shouted at the soldiers that the house they were firing at had elderly and disabled residents in it, but they ignored her.
In the mean time, I stood facing the soldiers guarding the gate in the Wall and watched them. They put on tough-looking faces, but to me they appeared to be just a group of cute kids. I thought to myself that any one of them could have been my son. The only ones who looked agitated were those who stood behind them, with the badge of the army spokesperson`s office on their shoulders, filming the events.
The main attraction of the demonstration was a elderly Palestinian, who had Parkinson`s, who came in a black suit and a Palestinian keffiyeh and threw himself on the soldiers` shields. They pushed him back, though they did try to be gentle, not because they are gentle by nature, but rather because they knew foreign television crews were filming them from the adjacent hilltop.
Once in a while the commander of the unit, who seemed slick and devious to me, one of those who will declare at a party a few years down the line that he`s really a leftist, instructed with a nod of his head the use of a water cannon to disperse us. Then the stun grenades began flying. What a disgusting man! How could I say that I belong to the same nation as this commander, who orders stun grenades to be thrown at me, while seemingly unable to wipe a vile smile from his lips. It`s clear to him that I am non-violent, and I will not lift a finger to his soldiers, nor I nor the elderly people I was with, much less the villagers who were even less violent than I was. All they wanted was to demonstrate a symbolic presence near the Wall. One day I will bump into this commander when he is back to civilian life and I will spit in his face(symbolically, of course, not really, because I am not violent like he is).
This is how the Occupation functions. On the front line are good, innocent
youth, who could have been my children, about whom I could never say that they are oppressive occupiers. Behind them stands a commander who looks like a marketing executive who cannot harm a fly. And behind him stand all sort of slick-looking youths from the army spokesperson`s office who look like future cinema directors and authors. And even further back behind them stands a water cannon for dispersal of demonstrations. And what`s the big deal about a water cannon - water doesn`t kill. Nor do stun grenades. The whole thing looks like child`s play, and despite all this there is an Occupation, despite all this Hashem lives in a cage, much worse-off than black slaves in the US in their time. All the people of Bil`in can do is go to Ramallah, where the world they can travel freely in stops. All this misery is created by people who look like dorky marketing managers.
So on the night of the Seder, while listening to the dull text of the Hagadah, I will think about Hashem and his family from Bil`in, who fed me a sparse meal, and yet I, even if I wanted to fulfill the commandment telling me to share my food and my home with the needy will not be able to, because of those fences and walls of Occupation separating between us, disguising themselves as elements in an `enlightened` Occupation. And I will think that they are truly my people, not the disgusting officers who look like marketing executives, who destroy my beautiful land with fortified cement.
Upon them will I pour my scorn, as is commanded to do upon non-Jews in the